Is reading an admission of defeat?

I was reading The Apple: Crimson Petal stories recently, a collection of short stories and I came across this quote which stopped me in my tracks.

“Reading, by its very nature, is an admission of defeat, a ritual of self-humiliation: it shows that you believe other lives are more interesting than yours.”

For me, reading is escapism. It’s something I really enjoy. I’m not sure I read because other people’s lives are more interesting than my own. But then it got me to thinking, when my life is incredibly busy I don’t get to read as much. Is that because my life is more interesting, so there’s no time to indulge in fictional characters’ lives?

What do you make of this quote?

26 thoughts on “Is reading an admission of defeat?

  1. Oh wow. I don’t like how that quote makes me feel!

    I like to think my life is pretty cool, it’s not exactly The Hunger Games but y’know. When I’m busy and don’t have time to read I can’t wait to get back to it, so it’s not like I read for want of better things to do…therefore I declare that quote as utter rubbish!

    • I know. I had to really stop and think when I read it. I think you’re right, I always go back to reading, I don’t really read because I think my life is rubbish and need to immerse myself in someone else’s life.

  2. I’m not sure whether to be offended or not by this quote! It’s an interesting way to look at reading and like you, it is sometimes a form of escapism for me. But I think I read purely for the joy of the story, and some of the books I’ve read have had quite dull characters with not much going on. Therefore I wouldn’t say their life is more interesting than my own!

  3. That’s actually a really interesting quote. I mean of course I read books because they are interesting but I don’t think it’s exactly because I think other lives are better than mine. I have too much self-belief to think that. Sometimes though, my life does get pretty crappy and reading just takes my mind off of it. I think sometimes, I even read because it makes me realise how good my life is. I mean sure, the lives in books are more interesting but some are pretty bad. Even though there’s always a happy ending, the journey to the light at the end of the tunnel is always eye opening. Thanks for sharing such an interesting topic!

    • You’re welcome Laura. It’s so interesting to chat with everyone about it. It’s just a quotation that I felt I had to share, to see how others think about it. It really made me stop and think about the reasons why I read. I can have pretty crappy times on occasion and reading does make me feel better, but that’s only because it distracts me. I tend to read no matter what my mood though!

  4. Wow, that one really makes you think. Maybe it’s that our favorite books are more than just books to us. They’re our favorites because they host the desires of our hearts. Hidden or not. I mean, take The Hunger Games. Who doesn’t secretly wish to be great and to be revered? But most of us aren’t. In books, girls date boys that real girls dream of. In books, protagonists set out to save the world. They’re special. I think books tap into human nature. We enjoy reading them because in some ways? They might be who we wish we were. Therefore, I could see what the book says about it being an admission of defeat because they’re more interesting than us.

    • Great comment! Thanks. I guess it can sometimes be the case, but I don’t always read books that make me want to be the character, some of the time, I read disturbing, tragic books and that’s definitely not what I want in my life! I know exactly what you mean though. Girls do date these amazing guys. Now where can I find one of those?!

  5. I don’t see myself less if I admit that the characters I read have more interesting lives than me. I mean, aren’t they supposed to be interesting to begin with? Why would we read it in the first place? It’s the same as watching movie or TV shows. I don’t think I can compare my life to a fiction story regardless if it was inspired from real life events because the bottom-line is: mine is real, theirs are fiction.

    • You’re right! I do like books that are pure escapism and not too tragic, but I do like to read tragic, disturbing books sometimes. It is then that I don’t find their lives more interesting than mine.

  6. I have a tendency to read fantasy/sci fi and things that are not real. I’m not sure what that says about me. I would love to have magical powers? I want to be abducted by aliens? The things I read are things I wish could happen? The characters lives are more interesting than mine? Possibly, but only because they can’t be real. I wonder what that says about people who read true crime? Was Clifford Olsen’s or Ted Bundy’s life more interesting? doubtful, just different. I think the author of that quote is nuts.

    Keep on reading 🙂

  7. I don’t know how I feel about this quote… I miss reading when I’m too busy. I’ve not failed because I love books. I am enriched because I read.
    This would apply to film, TV and music, also art wouldn’t it? We enjoy those things because they inspire our imagination.

  8. oh wow that quote is a bit offensive. I read because it helps keep my brain active. I like crossword puzzles for the same reason. That doesn’t mean my life isn’t interesting.

  9. I definitely agree with what everyone else has said. It’s just such a mixed bag when it comes to why a person does certain things like reading, watching tv or movies, writing…. I think that’s what offends (if that’s the right word) me the most, the fact that it’s such a broad – and at times inaccurate – generalization regarding readers and reading.

  10. Well, my first impression is that whoever said this rubs me totally wrong. How dare you call my life uninteresting???

    Moving on from that emotion, I actually disagree with this. I read because my life is so busy and wild all the time. I need to escape it all, because I can’t handle real life. It’s much easier to invest myself in something that I know is fake, even if it makes me weep buckets or laugh like a lunatic as if it were real life. I know I can shut it down, close the book, and return to reality when I’m ready.

    But frequently I’m not 😉

    • I know! I just had to get this quote out there for discussion with my fellow book lovers. It certainly evokes emotion. I read most of the time to relax, unwind and enjoy some time out of a sometimes hectic schedule. I love visiting other people’s worlds/lives, but that doesn’t mean that my life is uninteresting. Grrr!

  11. Hm. Interesting. I personally read as a form of escapism, and also because I have a vivid imagination and I like using it. Books play out like films in my head, words go in and pictures come out. I read because I enjoy it, not because my life is boring. I think reading makes my life more interesting really. Without it, what would I do with my spare time?

    I mean, I’m sure I’d find things to do, but I come from a household of people who read. On weekends we’re in various parts of the house, reading books (sometimes we’re all in the same part of the house lol). I couldn’t imagine my life without books.

    And by default, fictional characters always have interesting lives. Isn’t that the whole point of fiction? For it to be interesting?

    • I completely agree with you. I have a vivid imagination too. I have to be careful with what I read because of that 😉 Ha! I also come from a family that read quite a bit. (Well, us females do! My brother and my dad don’t seem to have the same interest.) Thanks for your comment!

  12. Pingback: Short Stories Challenge – The Apple by Michel Faber from the collection The Apple: Crimson Petal Stories | bibliobeth

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